A Portland Primer: Essential Reads to Understand the Housing Crisis

by Jun 6, 2024

Voters across the Portland Metro region are concerned about the housing crisis, about 78% according to a recent poll. With housing at the forefront of all of our minds this election season, now’s a great time to get caught up on the issue.

These 7 stories from 2023 offer a primer on the hurdles being tackled and solutions being developed to solve the Portland region’s homelessness crisis. They also offer an inside look into the challenges people face when they are pushed into homelessness.

While our focus is primarily on the Portland Metro region’s experience addressing homelessness, these stories are nevertheless relevant to any region working to address this pressing issue. 

1. The state provided funding through the Project Turnkey Initiative to convert old motels into shelters or transitional housing, resulting in 32 Project Turnkey shelters in 27 cities across Oregon. In Clackamas, the County Commission approved a plan to use a state grant to convert an old Quality Inn to much-needed transitional housing. That was until Chair Tootie Smith changed her mind and her vote. Local news coverage kept us all in the loop on a story with lots of plot twists.

“We will not go forward with Project Turnkey at the current selected location.”

2. Civil commitment — a legal process that determines whether a person should be required to accept mental health treatment — is a hot topic of debate in Oregon. This OregonLive article centers the people and service workers whose lives are impacted every day by this debate.

“(Short term) involuntary treatment can aid in stabilization … (but) it only defers dealing with the fundamental issue: The people who are most in need of service and support have nowhere to be and no place to go.”

3. A Multnomah County judge halted the city’s proposed daytime camping ban less than a week before its scheduled enforcement. Although a revised camping ban went into effect in Portland on May 8, 2024, this Street Roots article delves into the legal case made by the Oregon Law Center on behalf of clients who would be harmed by this city policy.

4. The value of a home should not be underestimated. In this case, one house was enough to provide a lifeline for eight hard working mothers and their children. Read about these women’s stories in Willamette Week.
 We have villainized substance use disorder for so long, and now we’re finally starting to say these are real people and we’re going to treat them respectfully.”

5. It would be a shame if you missed the big news: the Supportive Housing Services measure is set to bring in an extra $1 billion dollars of revenue. Three cheers for SHS (and Alex Zielinski of OPB’s timely reporting)!

Our community has come together behind proven solutions to homelessness.


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